OPINION

Emergency Budget has no money for Covid-19 response – Siviwe Gwarube

DA MP says R20bn promised to provinces appears to have disappeared

Treasury’s Emergency Budget has no money for the national Covid-19 response

25 June 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that time be set aside for Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize to make a ministerial statement in the National Assembly as per the rules of Parliament in light of the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s budget speech on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Minister Mboweni, tabled the grimmest adjusted budget which was meant to be a direct response to the economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

More importantly, there was an expectation for Minister Mboweni to give detail on the R20 billion that was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, that would be allocated to fund the health response across the provinces. However, it was revealed in the budget that there is no new money for this. Provinces would have to fund the additional expenses they have had to incur from the existing provincial budget and through slashing of conditional grants meant for service delivery.

It is now important that Minister Mkhize explains to Parliament how provinces went from expecting R20 billion that would be divided up across the country in an equitable fashion, to absolutely no new money except for the R500 million conditional grant that is meant for a basket of services, also funded from existing money in the provinces.

This ministerial statement needs to be prioritized as a matter of urgency. In it, Minister Mkhize must explain the crisis that we now preside over and what each provincial plan will entail in relation to infections; fatalities and the health system capacity.

Repeatedly, the President and the Minister have reiterated that provinces must do all they can to save lives and that money would not be an issue. This is now a massive blow to the fight against this pandemic. Not only is money an issue, there isn’t any at all.

Provincial health departments that are at the coalface of this health response have been the hardest hit by yesterday’s budget. It now means the country will need to make impossible decisions relating to how lives are saved in the provinces. This is why we need urgent clarity from Minister Mkhize to explain what the plan is to fund the health response in the country.

South Africa has reached two significant moments this week. We have breached the 100 000 infections mark and over 2000 fatalities. As per the projections that we have seen, this situation is bound to worsen and numbers will increase exponentially. Provinces will never be able to wage a significant fight against this pandemic with additional staff, extra bed capacity and field hospitals without money.

Where is the R20 billion that was to be allocated for the health response?

Issued by Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health, 25 June 2020